NerdWriter recently released a new video detailing the intricacies of music created specifically for Super Nintendo consoles, and it turns out it’s way harder than you’d think.
The science behind video game music is SUPER tech-y. Back in NES days, there were two sound chips that worked in tandem. The SPC700 8bit processing core would write the program that told the second chip, the DSP 16bit signal processor, what sounds to make.
All those little bloopy-bleeps you hear when you’re playing Super Nintendo have actually been carefully created by a composer – a really damn talented one.
While the original Nintendo sound chip had five sound channels and could only do a few variations of the same basic sounds, the new-and-improved Super Nintendo had eight dedicated sound channels and used a sampling system which meant that artists could load in noises or sound effects from any instruments of their choosing.
The Super Nintendo was a big improvement over its predecessor, but still had one huge limitation – between the two chips, the system could only accommodate for 64kb of audio ram. To put that into perspective, the average three minute MP3 bought off iTunes is around 6MB, 100 times bigger than the entire capacity of the Super Nintendo (and that’s just for one song).
That 64kb had to hold all the music and sound effects for an entire game. Super Nintendo music samples had to be super tiny, all the way down to a single cycle of a waveform. Limitations breed creativity!
Check out the video to get the lowdown: